Crankin' and Rippin'
By Gary Dobyns
To me, the best time for fishing is during the prespawn. During this period, I start looking for fish outside the spawning areas. The anglers who fish the lakes I fish know where the good spawning areas are: places like the Keyes at Clear Lake and the big flats at Folsum or Oroville. These are automatic locations I head to during the prespawn.
What I really enjoy about the prespawn is that the fish are grouped up. When you catch one bass, you can catch a lot of them in the same spot. I don't usually use a graph to locate the fish, I prefer to locate them with my lure. When we're really early in the prespawn I will use a graph but when it starts getting close, I just use my baits.
At these times I'm looking for shallower fish, fish located in 10 to 20 feet of water. At Clear Lake (California) I'm looking for a ledge on the outside of spawning areas that may be 5- to 7-feet. I believe the fish are just concentrated in these areas, waiting for the weather to get just right for spawning. Once I locate the fish I begin fan casting heavily in that spot and I will go through it many times and will often come back to it several times in a day.
The reason this is my favorite time of year is because this is the time when I get to use the lures I have the most confidence in. I start throwing my VPR Pro spinnerbaits and Lucky Craft ripbaits. For some reason it's easy for me to locate fish outside of the spawning areas.
When I'm looking for the prespawn fish I have a few baits that use a lot. Two of them are the Stacey and the Bevy Shad by Lucky Craft. I have also used the Shad Rap for a long time. The one thing these baits have in common is that they are deeper baits. They are very simple to use, it's just a twitch-and-go method. Everyone thinks I have some kind of rhythm when I work these baits but I really don't. I just twitch and pause, but I know the pause is what is really important. If the fish aren't real active I will let it sit longer, sometimes as long as five or ten seconds.
A lot people think that rippin' is a difficult technique to master, but it's actually one of the easiest methods there is. You just throw it out and jerk, you just have to build your confidence in it. Part of what makes rippin' easier is the rod you use. Even before getting a sponsorship with them, I was using a seven foot Loomis Crankin' Stick. It has the right action. You don't want a fast tip rod when you're rippin', you need a medium action, or a rod with a parabolic bend to it. In other words, the rod needs to be able to bend the full length. A rod that's soft way back into the rod.
The fast tip rods tend to recover too fast. When I jerk a bait with a fast tip rod I can't get the rod back to it fast enough and it doesn't work the bait right. The Loomis rod I use has the perfect action and weighs a lot less.
While I'm generally fishing my lures at 7 to 1 0 feet deep, I believe I can pull fish up 10 feet with a ripbait. Some anglers think that 20 to 40 feet is a long way for a fish to run to get a lure. But, think about it this way, even 60 feet is only three boat lengths. That's not very far. I know I can pull fish from ten feet below my lure.
The whole objective is to try and imitate a crippled baitfish. I'm not trying match any type of baitfish because I feel bass are pure predators and will attack whatever they can find.
When it comes to colors, I'm just trying to match water color. In clear water lakes I like Lucky Craft's Ghost pattern. It's not a big, flashy bait. It's very subtle in coloration that works well in the clear water. Fish can see a whole lot better underwater than we even give them credit for, so subtle colors in clear water can be more effective. When the water has some stain to it, I won't throw anything but chartreuse or red.
White is also an awesome color. This time of year using white can produce far beyond your expectations.
While you may be tempted to run and gun this time of year, your best bet is to sit tight longer. Prespawn bass will be in tight groups and generally, if you find one you will find several. The key to being successful during the prespawn is not to run away from your fish. Even if I catch five or six fish on a spot, I still believe there are more. When everything is right, you can fish a 20 by 20 area, which isn't very big, and catch all the fish you need. Once the fish move up to spawn, they tend to spread out more. Once they go in, my numbers go down because I have to cover a larger area. Once they head in I stop using the deeper baits and throw shallow-running stick baits like the Lucky Craft Pointer baits. A really hot bait when the fish move in is the Lucky Craft 110 Flash Minnow. It only runs 2 to 3 feet deep, but it really catches fish.
The prespawn is, for me, one of the most exciting times of the year to fish. It's also the time when I perform my best in tournaments. Get on out there and hit the water, it'll be some of the most fun you've had all year.
Reprinted with permission from Bass West Magazine